Is Pioneer Really Just Dimir Inverter Or Bust?

Dimir Inverter is a Pioneer powerhouse, but it’s not your only option! Five SCG creators weigh in on their Pioneer decks of choice.

Watery Grave, illustrated by Cliff Childs

Welcome to What We’d Play! With Core Set 2021 shaking things up, many are unsure what they’d play in Pioneer. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making over the next handful of days! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!

Emma Handy — Dimir Inverter

At this point it’s hard to argue that there’s a Pioneer deck that’s fundamentally stronger than Dimir Inverter.  Sure, there are certainly ways to combat it — Mono-White Devotion is able to attack it from a reasonable angle, for example.  That doesn’t mean that Mono-White Devotion is doing something as powerful or as consistent as what Dimir Inverter brings to the table.

The combo of Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, and Dig Through Time is much stronger than other core engines in the format, and Dimir Inverter being the best deck to utilize those tools makes it a safe choice going into any weekend.  The fact that the deck got a new tool in Eliminate is just icing on the cake.

As far as specific lists go, Daniel Goetshel, or GUL_DUKAT on Magic Online, has been a champion of the deck from the beginning, testing and tweaking it for six months now.  Wherever he goes, I will follow.  Anyone looking to succeed in the foreseeable future would be wise to do the same.

Patrick Sullivan — Boros Burn

I believe this, or something close to it, was the format’s best deck prior to the rules change to companions. Since then, I haven’t seen much conversation about it. That’s strange to me because the deck wasn’t really about Lurrus, in comparison to Modern analogs. Without Mishra’s Bauble, there was little incentive to cast Lurrus on the third turn, and once you’re there, paying three to draw rather than immediately cast isn’t as taxing as it might seem when you theorycraft it out. The card isn’t a big part of your gameplan but still comes up from time to time, not that differently from before. In exchange, there’s a lot less visibility on this kind of strategy, which I think at least offsets the nerf to Lurrus, and is probably net-positive.

I have found this deck to be exceptional against Dimir Inverter (Yorion or otherwise) and great against most Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath soups. The deck has enough staying power to sideboard in removal without folding to opposing resistance, and enough randomly powerful cards – Eidolon of the Great Revel and Boros Charm especially – to carry the day even in ostensibly bad matchups. Boros Burn is strong, consistent, and not on the radar, and I would enthusiastically play it for an upcoming Pioneer event.

Ari Lax — Dimir Inverter

Dimir Inverter was the best deck in the format prior to companions. Those then got blasted out of existence, and Dimir Inverter was yet again the best deck. Then Core Set 2021‘s best Pioneer card was Eliminate, which is the perfect interactive upgrade against Gideon of the Trials for Dimir Inverter, which is still the best deck.

Plus the best deck in the format plays Thoughtseize. It would just be bad branding for me to suggest anything else.

Dom Harvey — Golgari Aggro

Sometimes the best weapon is a blunt instrument. As Ari Lax identified back in February, Golgari Aggro is excellent against Dimir Inverter and Lotus Breach but weak to the removal-heavy midrange or controlling strategies you’re likely to face in a diverse format. Unfortunately, judging by recent Magic Online results, Pioneer has once again narrowed around Inverter and anti-Inverter decks. Fortunately for Golgari Aggro, its Inverter matchup is excellent and it can outmuscle the aggressive decks trying to exploit Inverter’s clunkiness. 

This list avoids the inconsistencies of previous Golgari Aggro shells which focused around high-impact but expensive plays. As fun as it is to cast a ‘free’ The Great Henge and chain it into Ghalta, Primal Hunger, that’s not a necessary plan in general and not a realistic one when your resources are under attack — too many promising starts fall apart when Elvish Mystic meets Fatal Push or Wild Slash. Heart of Kiran allows fast starts in non-Elf games while Mutavault gives this list enough lands to cast its threats without mana creatures and with in-built insurance against flooding and sweepers. This rules out Steel Leaf Champion and Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig, but Garruk’s Harbinger is a fine replacement that happens to be outstanding against Inverter’s removal suite. Garruk, Unleashed is the perfect curve-topper for this deck — if Inverter of Truth plus Thassa’s Oracle is the new Splinter Twin, perhaps Garruk plus Rotting Regisaur is the new Inverter.

As Sun Tzu — or possibly Michael Scott — once said: to know your enemy, you must become your enemy. 

Shaheen Soorani — Dimir Inverter

Dimir Inverter is the clear champion of the Pioneer format.  The deck should have been removed in the last banning but remains as the undisputed best deck.  It has great games against aggro, combo, and control, presenting an instant-kill with the elements of a reactive control deck.  Disruption would typically be strong against a deck like this; however, Dig Through Time neutralizes that threat with ease.

The core of the deck is the same as its been for a while.  One removal spell has joined forces with Fatal Push to make the early-game ambush less successful across the board.  Eliminate is an amazing removal spell, handling most creatures and planeswalkers in the format.  I was excited to see this spell hit Standard, but the bulk of its impact is in Eternal formats, where removal spells were only great if they cost one mana.  Eliminate costs two, but it does double duty as a Hero’s Downfall against cheaper planeswalkers.  Since most planeswalkers that cause a headache are three mana, we welcome this removal spell with open arms, further propelling Dimir Inverter higher up the power level ladder.

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